Futuribles Journal n° 304

Économie, emploi - Population

Anti-discrimination Efforts in France. What Can Be Learned from the American Experience with Regard to Employment

Par

At the end of November 2004 a report was published in France, produced by Claude Bébéar at the request of the prime minister, on discrimination by firms. In particular, the report showed evidence of undoubted discrimination against foreigners or people of foreign descent with regard to hiring, and it called for a radical change in attitudes.
Michèle Tribalat is a researcher at INED ("Institut national d'études démographiques") and the author of one of the most recent studies to investigate ethnic criteria that provides statistical evidence on the true extent of discrimination in France (1992). She discusses the present position with regard to combating discrimination in this country (against minorities, women, the handicapped, etc.), and shows in particular how much France relies heavily on a "hyperjuridical" and global approach to the problem, being generally content to pass legislation and apply (without great zeal) EU directives. She stresses the lack of any real political will to measure how much discrimination there is: no satisfactory statistical tools exist, not even in employment, which is an area where using existing surveys would, without involving major difficulties, yield studies based on actual figures.
By contrast, the United States - which has been very active in combating discrimination since the 1960s - has been highly pragmatic and this has allowed the Americans to measure what has in fact been happening. Michèle Tribalat presents here, as an example, the way they gather data relating to the employment of women and minorities in American firms, and shows how this could be transposed to France. However, apart from the periodic bursts of interest in this issue, do the French really want to have such statistical information? Are we ready to abandon the current global approach and tackle the problem at a more refined level (employment, housing, etc.)?

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